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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Santa Ana and Vicinity: Least Grebe, White-faced Ibis and Long-billed Dowitcher

[Santa Anna NWR, TX. Dec 2015]

In the words of the renowned actress Elizabeth Taylor: "It's not the having, it's the getting" -- a saying that sums up perfectly the thrill of the chase and how the adrenaline-infused process of acquisition outweighs the placid act of possession

In Birding, however, the "not getting" can sometimes be unexpectedly rewarding as well. For example, this blogger was in pursuit of a Northern Jacana (a Mexican vagrant) that had been reported at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in late December. While the Jacana remained stubbornly elusive to attempts at observation, the process of "not getting" nonetheless produced other rewarding sightings including:
  • Least Grebe
  • White-faced Ibis (from nearby Estero Llano)
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Long-billed Dowitcher; and,
  • Lesser Yellowlegs
 We start with the grebe:

Our smallest grebe with its piercing yellow eyes is a striking sight that lent poetic inspiration to this blogger several years ago during a Lifer moment:

This Worthy Grebe
Would it not have been wise
To recognize spirit over size
This worthy grebe would then boast
Not the prefix "least"; but "most"

Aptly named, this is the smallest Grebe not only in the US but in the entire New World and while it ranges widely across S. America, in the US, it is restricted to Southern Texas [also occasionally seen as a vagrant in South Florida].

An Ibis spied at nearby Estero Llano Grande, on the other hand, evoked a ho-hum response -- a typical knee-jerk reaction that characterizes the observation of a thoroughly familiar species -- the Glossy Ibis. 

However, and this is why bird photography is such a powerful complement to birding -- closer inspection of the image upon return to Michigan underscored the perils of misidentification that can result from perfunctory observation in the field -- for, this is a White-faced Ibis; not a Glossy Ibis! Note the reddish legs and eyes. This "western counterpart" to the Glossy has an odd distribution -- found in the lower half of S. America it is then absent until it resurfaces in Central and Western N. America.

Also seen at Santa Ana NWR were Long-billed Dowitcher:

.. and Lesser Yellowlegs:

In addition to the waders and shorebirds, Santa Ana, which has a checklist of 397 species, is particularly renowned for its birds in passage. 

In the flash visit to this fabled venue that was afforded this blogger, full advantage of the available observation options was not availed. Any trip to the RGV area requires a good 4 to 7 days to fully appreciate the various hotspots and the avian treasures they hold.

We end with Great Kiskadee:  

This blogger's first visit to the RGV area was in 2009. A return visit in 2012 underscored why Southern Texas remains a mecca for the American birding community. And, with or without the odd rarity from Mexico, venues such as Santa Ana NWR and Estero Llano Grande SP continue to enchant.

1 comment:

Bob Pelkey said...

You've merely saved the jacana for another day, Hemant. The wildlife is very well "captured" as always. There is a chance I may have the White-faced Ibis as a life bird at north Florida's St. Marks NWR next month.